Category Archives: General

Why “The Fifth Element” Is So Beloved

From /r/movies:

“Let me preface this with some context; the movie was released in 1997 and is nearly 20 years old. If you can watch it today and think to yourself, “seemed like a regular movie to me” then that alone should at least give you some sort of context for just the quality of the movie it is and why it’s beloved.

“Many old movies that have been declared classics or have grown a beloved fanbase often have a joke associated to them: “I watched the movie and hated it. It was cliché after cliché after cliché.” The Fifth Element isn’t quite a magnum opus, but instead it falls into a niche area of film making that is extremely difficult to be successful with. The movie is as much a satire as it is a film of its own merit.

The Fifth Element quite literally takes stereotypical archetypes of both character and genre to weave its own tapestry. Bruce Willis’s Korben Dallas is not the character you’re supposed to relate to, he’s the focus of the story, but he’s a caricature of his own Die Hard character John McClane. He’s intentionally overly masculine and emotionally distant. They literally shove that into your face at the beginning by showing the long list of weapons required for the mission on a cartoonish scroll falling from the general’s hand. They even joke about him being too emotionally distant in his apartment. The movie is almost force-feeding to the audience, “hey, he’s the overly macho hero”. Most movies aren’t as forceful about it, but this one does so intentionally which is why it comes across as annoying at first.

“Then they introduce the damsel in distress character, LeeLoo. She’s naked and scared and has no idea what is going on. As an audience, we don’t know what’s going on either so we’re in the same boat as her. She’s the character the audience is supposed to relate to because we don’t know anything other than who some people are and fragments of plot. As she learns, we learn. Her character is also intentionally annoying just like foreigners often are to natives.

“They then proceed to introduce Zorg as the evil villain as well as stereotypically dumb henchmen who don’t know enough to ask about the little red button. They even have the wise old man with his apprentice supposed to have the information to save everybody. Everything is cliché and standard to this point. You have the emotionally distant overly-masculine hero; the frail, scared, and emotionally unstable and weak damsel in distress requiring saving; the evil villain bent on destroying the world; and then the too dumb to get anything done henchmen to carry out everything. This is the model for nearly every action movie even to this day.

“Now let’s examine the genre the movie occupies, the space opera. One of the most popular space operas is Star Wars, but that franchise wasn’t first and there were many before it. The genre’s essentially set in outerspace, deals with campy romance, has advanced technology and weaponry. This is exactly what The Fifth Element is from the start.

“Then something really strange happens, the entire movie reveals itself as a satire of a space opera literally in the middle of a space opera as it turns into electronic vocals. From then on, every archetype is reversed. The overly masculine emotionally distant hero becomes the emotionally frail character. LeeLoo is revealed to be the overly masculine strong hero character. The wise old man and his apprentice really have no idea what’s going on. The hero and villain never, ever talk to each other, see each other, or really know about each other (aside from Korben being employed and fired by Zorg’s company at the beginning). The henchmen wind up being dumber than any henchmen before making them a complete joke as well, but at the same time unpredictable causing the villain’s plan to blow up in his face.

The movie is beloved because it’s not just a good movie, but a great satire of an entire genre without becoming a joke of itself. Look at the first Scream movie as a counterexample. It lampooned slasher horror films for large laughs, but revealed itself as a hidden plot-based movie at the end by being a satire of not just slashers, but also crime-thrillers. While Scream hid within its jokes, The Fifth Element was the dancer on stage intentionally dancing horribly for half the show before showing the true grace and showcasing the technical difficultly it required for someone skilled to actually go against the skill to be that bad on stage.

“Beyond that, LeeLoo’s strong female character was highly praised and her quirks are highly quotable. Korban Dallas is largely forgettable because his character was primarily a meat popsicle stereotype. Chris Tucker just stole the show with his perfect performance of Ruby Rhod. It’s a really fun and enjoyable film and the fact it’s pushing 20 years and still holding strong amazes me.”

Full discussion in context.

Great and Terrible Terror Known as Charlie

From Reddit’s /r/goodlongposts: What deep, dark secret did you learn about the seemingly perfect family?

“One of my earliest memories is being prepped for kidnapping. Not the generic sort of “if anyone bothers you, find an adult you know or a police officer and tell them _______,” but the very specific “if a blonde woman about yea high introduces herself as +Charlie, run. Find a teacher, find Mom or Dad, find a police officer. Do not get in the car. Do not take anything she offers you. If she tries to pick you up, hug you, touch you, anything, fight like Hell and run, run, run.”

“Teachers at my elementary school were warned. I had my very own security guard who waited with me outside at the end of every day until my mother pulled up. I carried mace at eight years old. New locks were installed at home. My bedroom windows were nailed shut from the inside.

“My father, I was later told, kept a pistol by his bed, and some nights would set a chair in front of the front door and sleep there, rifle at the ready, just in case.

“This woman, so all were told, was obsessed with my father. She wanted to get my mother out of the way — divorce, or death, it didn’t matter either way — and marry my father, raise me as her own. If that meant kidnapping, so be it.

“The constant, looming threat of kidnapping — the presence of this woman whom I’d never met, the Great and Terrible Terror known as Charlie — was one of the defining themes of my entire childhood. I wasn’t afraid, as it’d been present in my life so long I was rather numb to it all. But the strange, over-watchful behavior of the adults around me was noted.

“But it was all a lie. My mother made it all up. Why? Nobody knows. It’s hardly the only, or even biggest thing she lied about. She was, it was later discovered, fond of criminal behavior, child abuse, and elaborate lies that spanned out through the family, the community, her various lovers.

“Maybe she was bored. Maybe she was unhappy. Maybe she was mentally ill. I never knew the details.

“But I do recall asking her about it, quite mildly, just a couple of years ago, something along the lines of, “Hey, Mama, remember that woman Charlie? I was just thinking about her the other day.”

“And in the typical fashion of someone who’s spent 60+ years weaving so many lies she can’t even keep her aliases straight, she looked at me blankly and said, “Who?”

“My family never seemed perfect to me, although they certainly maintained that illusion for a long time in our hometown, and this is hardly the most disturbing thing that occurred, but it was one of my earliest flashes of insight that there was something far beyond generic “dysfunctional family* manifesting in my bloodline.”

Full discussion and more.

 

 

Your New Favorite Trump-Russia Conspiracy Theory (And An Even Wilder One)

And it kinda makes sense:

“My theory for a while now has been that Putin wanted to undermine democracy by promoting anti-government forces and separatists in rhe US as he does in the countries. So he asked his colleague Paul Manafort, who said “Sure, one of my old buddies is a leader of the Ersatz Confederacy.” Then he said “Hey Jeff, you know how white people are soon going to be a minority and democracy will then destroy white hegemony? What if we could help you with that democracy problem?”

“Sessions said “I love it.” He recruited a core team which included Bannon. They brought Trump in as the perfect figurehead (celebrity “businessman” who had a long history of looking the other way from Russian money laundering) but were careful not to tell him too much. Because he is an idiot who cannot keep his mouth shut. They told him it was totally normal to meet with Russian lawyers and anyone in Washington would have taken that meeting. Trump believed them.

“Now it is all blowing up. Sessions got him into this mess. Sessions told him it would be great. Sessions says “make me AG. No one will be able to touch you.”

“Then he recuses himself??? Sessions told him to fire Comey! Now Trump is the one being blamed for “obstruction of justice”?

“He keeps getting in trouble for doing stuff Sessions told him to do. Not fair!

So yeah, I can see him leaking this to be like “See? Sessions is the colluder, not me. Sessions made me do it!”

Full discussion in context and an even crazier one in the thread.

Graphic from Salon.

If Trump’s America Was a Mean Girl

The gossip is that America is a total bitch lately:

“Like, oh my God, have you talked to America lately? She’s like, suuuuuper weird now. She used to be all high and mighty and push the other girls around, saying that she could do what she wanted because she was super rich and super athletic and stuff. Like, seriously, just because your family makes a lot of money and invented the Internet doesn’t mean you can, like, control everyone, right?

“Anyway, she used to be all up in everyone’s business because she, like, won a clique war or something. We get it, that girl Deutshe lost, and she dragged Nippon and Italia with her, but now that some time has passed, America isn’t the biggest bitch in school anymore. I mean, yeah, she’s still super rich, and she can kick most of our butts if it ever came to a scrape, but now she’s… changed, you know? She used to be super all about Freedom, and Liberty, and treating her friends nice and trying to make everyone in school feel better about themselves (outwardly, at least, she was kinda fake about it; I think she was just doing it to piss of Ruskie’s clique? I dunno, Russia turned into a total jackass, too. I mean, did you hear about when he stole Ukraine’s backpack? He just kept screaming that it was his, or something.)

“Anyway, ever since last November, she’s turned suuuuuper mean and grouchy. She keeps screaming at the school newspaper staff, claiming that they’re making it all up, but I hear that she just doesn’t like what they’re saying because it’s the truth, and it doesn’t make her look good, ya know? Like, they ran this expose about her being all handsy, and she was suuuper pissed. And, she found a bunch of people who agree with her, and she’s all grumpy because no one else is listening to her because she’s, like, such a perv. Also, she’s been bitching about all the Muslim and Latina girls because she, like, thinks they’re taking advantage of her, even though they help her in her Gardening Club and stuff.

“Also, you didn’t hear this from me, but she’s stopped going to her favorite clubs and stopped doing her volunteer work (I think she used to do, like, charity work. I dunno, something that looked good on her college applications) and she keeps saying that she’s changed, and now it’s all about HER. She’s also talking about how she’s not going to take her meds anymore (something about them being socialist, or… something. She thinks they’re too expensive.) You didn’t hear that from me, but her not taking her meds is NOT a good thing, we’re probably going to see her do a full meltdown; her Twitter account is already weird, and I think she’s trying to convicne Russia to go out with her, but… It’s like, weird, you know? Those two hated each other foreverrrrr and now America’s all “I love you! You’re all big and strong and I like your bear!”

“Idk, her other “friends”, assuming they’re all still friends, keep telling her she’s crazy, and that Russia’s been hacking her Facebook and stuff, but she won’t listen and no one seems to be able to tell her how crazy she’s gotten. I hope she gets some help, or takes a good long look in the mirror. Bitch turned cray. Hopefully she realizes it before she has a total meltdown.”

Full discussion in context.

Why the Mafia Controlled Stonewall and the Other Gay Bars in 1960s New York

It’s easy to forget that  just 50 years ago, gay people weren’t even allowed to dance in public.

From the AskHistorians sub-reddit:

“It wasn’t just Stonewall. In the 1960s, the Mafia (and specifically the Genovese mob family) was behind pretty much every bar in Manhattan that courted a gay clientele. And it wasn’t just $3500 startup–it was $1200 a month after that, to ensure that the police and State Liquor Authority would allow Stonewall to reopen after each very frequent raid.

“The repeal of Prohibition may have restored Americans’ right to drink alcohol, but municipalities and states found various ways to curtail gay people’s ability to drink together in public. In San Francisco, Sal Stoueman’s Black Cat Cafe (made particularly famous by Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg) handed out “I’m A Boy” nametags to patrons, so undercover cops could not arrest its drag performers, “gay screaming queens” (TM Ginsberg), or even “gray flannel suit types” for female impersonation with intent to defraud or deceive someone into sex. Los Angeles undercover cops would count the seconds they saw people kiss (in greeting, on New Years’ Eve, whatever) and arrest or brutalize whatever they considered to transcend the line from celebration to queer. The favored tactic of the New York SLA, of course, was to raid and shutter bars declared “disorderly,” such an excellent weasel word.

“Things might have reached a breaking point around 1960. Out in California, a group of San Francisco gay bar owners had banded together to go public about the massive bribes they were paying police in order to remain open, the effect being, they exposed significant police corruption. This resulted in the effective closure of SF’s 50 or so gay bars–but had ramifications across the country, too. In New York, only one bar managed to survive an initial 1960s shakedown and mass closure.

“The good half of the story, from there, is that the 1960-61 bar closures marked some of the most important pre-Stonewall gay rights protests and publicly broadcast activism. The Black Cat’s famous drag-performing singer, Jose Sarria, was the first openly gay candidate for public office in the US (SF city supervisor). Several bar owners’ groups (the Tavern Guild in particular) formed to lobby specifically for the rights of owners to court a gay clientele; even The Advocate started publication in response. In New York, a massive group of gay men staged a public protest of, essentially, “being gay in public” in midtown until cops and politicians basically allowed bars to operate for a period of time so they would go be queer out of sight.

“But the earlier entrenched corruption of statutory violation, raid, bribe, reopen cycle became even more vicious in most places. In the 1960s in particular, therefore, the Mafia pretty much made New York’s gay bar scene a treasured racket. They charged ridiculous cover fees and generally served cheap, lousy alcohol in exchange for the masquerade of protection from police raids. In fact, gay bars were raided as often as ever; just, protection fees like the $1200 Stonewall paid monthly meant the bars would be allowed to reopen afterwards. Stonewall’s bribe was particularly high, generally rumored the highest, because of all the other shady business that went on or allegedly went on (blackmail of customers, a prostitution ring, possibly a pedophile ring that accompanied a reputation in the heterosexual NY community of Stonewall as a place to go “tourist slumming.”)

“Word of mouth that Stonewall (Cherry Lane Theater, Fifth Avenue Bar, etc) were ‘periodically safe’ places for gay people to drink and be gay in public was crucial for the Mafia to keep their gay bars profitable, particularly a complete dive like Stonewall for which the space was really the only attraction.

“But it wasn’t just a one-way street, obviously. The gay community had its own formal means of communication, like the Mattachine Society’s Gay Scene Guide that informed readers the Stonewall Inn was one of a very few (maybe the only?) gay bar that allowed dancing and welcomed people obviously dressed in drag or otherwise flouting gender, not just sexuality, norms. The publication itself warned potential patrons that Stonewall was not safe (don’t give out your real name or address; the bar owners and workers are not on your side, either; the cops will raid periodically)–conditions fostered in large part by the mob ownership and oversight.

“In the middle of the 20th century, gay bars were a hot moneymaking opportunity for any shady criminal businessman or corrupt cop. In New York, the Mafia took particular control of the situation in the 1960s, including the fateful cultivation of Stonewall into the trashiest yet in some ways most emotionally significant in terms of “freedoms” permitted queer-clientele bar in the city.”

Full discussion in context with suggested readings.

Image from Encyclopedia Brittanica.

Trump Was Not An Anomaly

From a thread about Trump ruining the GOP brand:

“Trump isn’t an anomaly who squeaked through the GOP’s primary process, Trump was exactly what conservative leaders engineered their base to accept.

“Trump himself isn’t the story. Thump is an unthinking virus, a rabid dog, a scorpion who only knows how to sting. He is a child in a man’s body who had obscene privilege and wealth and no one who cared enough to equip him to be an adult with integrity and dignity. Trump really isn’t important in the story, just as a hurricane itself isn’t blamed as much as forecasting and first response and recovery.

“No, the story is about the conservative base, and the twisted, cynical and desperate ghouls who have manipulated these people over the last decades. The focus should be on how Republicans have whispered racism and hatred and fantasies of loss of unearned power and status in the ears of fearful and ignorant white people. Conservative leaders “primed the pump”TM for the base to accept a spoiler, an unthinking thug who babbles comforting populist nationalism and division from enemies and impossible promises of MAGA nonsense. Trump is exactly what conservatives have been building towards, even if they didn’t recognize how exactly it would manifest.

“Trump is a disaster. He is as dangerous as a snake in a crib or a grenade in a munitions dump or a sociopath in the White House. But it’s not his fault. Sadly, Trump is incapable of understanding his position. If he’s indicted, he literally may not be convicted because of mental incompetence.

“Let that sink in.

“No, we must focus on the actual culprits, the conservative leaders in Washington and state governor’s offices and legislatures and conservative local governments who have colluded to create these conditions. They vilify education and facts, they downplay science and critical thinking, they scare their aging base into thinking that government is evil and full of minorities that are out to get them. And, to their eternal shame, they bought it.

“So let’s shift attention from Trump to the real culprits. Let me state this clearly so that there is no misunderstanding:

  • If you voted for Trump, despite the warnings of over half of the country, you are a dumb, miserable sucker.
  • If you continue to support Trump, despite daily evidence of corruption, incompetence and self-sown confusion, you are an awful, hate-filled person. And you are the reason this is happening and continues to happen. Until you join the rest of us in condemning Trump, your conservative leaders will dither and remain silent on Trump’s ruin. And if you are OK with the country burning because you feel it will somehow hurt your liberal neighbors more, you are an irredeemable piece of filth, along with Trump and the leaders of the Right.”

Full discussion in context.

Image of Reince Prieus from this Politico article.

60+ Russia/Trump Connections

“It’s hard for me to see any U.S. ties to Russia…except for the Flynn thing and theManafort thing and the Tillerson thing and the Sessions thing and the Kushner thing and the Carter Page thing and the Roger Stone thing and the Wilbur Ross thing and the Felix Sater thing and the Boris Ephsteyn thing and the Rosneft thing and the Gazprom thing and the Sergey Gorkov thing and the Azerbaijan thing and the “I love Putin” thing and the Donald Trump Jr. thing and the Eric Trump thing and the Sergey Kislyak thing and the Russian Affiliated Interests thing and the Russian Business Interests thing and the other private Russian interests and the Emoluments Clause thing and the Alex Shnaider thing and the hack of the DNC thing and the Guccifer 2.0 thing and the Mike Pence thing and the numerous suspicious dead Russian’s thing and the public request to Russia to hack Hillary’s email thing and the Trump selling a house for $100 million at the bottom of the housing bust to the Russian fertilizer king thing and the Russian fertilizer king’s plane showing up in Concord, NC and Las Vegas during Trump campaign thing and the Russian fertilizer king’s yacht anchored next to Robert Mercer’s thing and the McConnell, Ryan, Nunes, Burr covering up Trump’s Russian collusion in September 2016 thing and the Nunes personal investments in the Russian winery thing and the Cyprus bank thing and the Trump not releasing his tax returns thing and the GOP rejection of a bill to require Trump to show his taxes thing and the election hacking thing and the GOP platform change to the Ukraine thing and the Steele Dossier thing and the “Leninist” Bannon thing and the Sally Yates can’t testify thing and the IC investigative reports thing and the Trump calling the Russian connection “fake news” thing and the Spicer’s Russian Dressing “nothing’s wrong” thing and the Chaffetz not willing to start an investigation thing and the Chaffetz suddenly deciding to go back to private life in the middle of an investigation thing and the Lead DOJ Investigator Mary McCord SUDDENLY deciding to resign thing and the White House going into full-on cover-up mode, refusing to turn over the documents related to the hiring and subsequent firing of Flynn thing and the Chaffetz and White House blaming the poor vetting of Flynn on Obama thing and the Poland and British intelligence gave information regarding the hacking back in 2015 to Paul Ryan and he didn’t do anything thing and the M16 agent following the money thing and the Obama personally warning Trump about Flynn’s involvement but hiring him anyway thing and the Corey Lewendowski thing and the Preet Bharara firing thing and the Betsy Devos’ Brother thing and the Sebastian Gorka thing and the Greg Gianforte from Montana thingand the Pence actually was warned about Flynn before he was hired thing and the Pence and Manafort connection thing and the 10 Allies coming forward with audio where Trump was picked up in incidental wire tapping thing and the Carter Page defying the Senate’s order to hand over his Russian contact list and the trump wants to VETO Sally Yates’ testimony thing…”